What's In Blue

Middle East (Syria) Consultations

On Monday morning (24 September), Council members will hold consultations on Syria. The UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, is expected to brief on his recent visit to the region. Council members will be interested to hear Brahimi’s assessment of the situation on the ground and his plans for carrying out his role as Joint Special Representative. It seems a formal Council outcome immediately following the consultations is unlikely.

Council members last met with Brahimi on 29 August informally in the interactive dialogue format. On Monday, Council members will be primarily concerned with Brahimi’s findings since that meeting, and whether he has identified any possible prospects for a new approach towards political dialogue and a political transition in Syria.

Brahimi visited Cairo where he met with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on 9 September and the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi on 10 September. On 13 September, Brahimi arrived in Damascus where he met first with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem, and then with opposition groups tolerated by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On 15 September, Brahimi met with Assad to discuss the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria. Speaking to the press following the meeting, Brahimi asserted that Assad was “more aware than me of the scope and seriousness of this crisis,” and that the situation in Syria “is becoming worse by the day.”

Brahimi met again with al-Arabi in Cairo on 17 September, and visited refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan the following day. Brahimi is expected to hold meetings with the Secretary-General and others from the Secretariat tomorrow (22 September) and will likely hold bilaterals with interested member states throughout the high-level week of the General Assembly. Council members hope to learn more about the Office of the Joint Special Representative for Syria in Damascus, recently established with diplomat Mokhtar Lamani as its head. At issue for both Brahimi and Council members will be how the Council can best support his continuing efforts in the region. In an interview on 20 September Brahimi related that, “I have the support of every member of the Security Council separately. It would be good to have it collectively – I think it will happen.”

Council members will also be interested in hearing Brahimi’s thoughts on how his efforts might best be coordinated with the newly formed regional Quartet on Syria, composed of Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The Quartet met on 17 September in Cairo, although Saudi Arabia did not attend. Another separate consideration relevant to Brahimi’s capacity to potentially mediate a peaceful solution is the recent report of the International Commission of Inquiry to the Human Rights Council. (The report indicated that gross violations of human rights had taken place on both sides of the conflict and had grown more frequent. The Commission also collected a confidential list of individuals and units believed to be responsible for war crimes.) A further consideration for Brahimi as he undertakes his challenging role is how his efforts will relate to—and be coordinated with—the meetings of the Friends of Syria. (The Friends of Syria Working Group on Sanctions met in The Hague on 20 September to discuss toughening and coordinating sanctions against Assad’s regime.)

The positions of Council members on the subject of Syria have not changed significantly in the month since the end of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria on 19 August. Barring major developments on the ground in Syria, the Council will remain in a “wait-and-see” mode in the short term unless—or until—Brahimi specifically seeks a Council endorsement of a new roadmap towards a political transition.

Currently, Council members still view the six-point plan as the commonly agreed platform for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. There is also recognition that the Action Group Communiqué, agreed in Geneva on 30 June, shifted the thrust of the six-point plan. (The communiqué no longer sequenced the cessation of violence before political dialogue, or the need for the Syrian government to cease violence before armed opposition groups.) However, Council members seem to agree that Brahimi should be allowed the space to consult with all the parties and take his own approach. It doesn’t seem that many Council members are anticipating that such an approach will be specifically or concretely formulated when Brahimi briefs members on Monday.

While no formal outcome is expected from Monday’s consultations, the discussions could feed into subsequent meetings later in the week. The Quartet has agreed to meet again on the sidelines of the General Assembly, and the core group of the Friends of Syria will meet on 28 September in advance of a full meeting of the Friends of Syria in Morocco in October.

Follow us on Twitter

Tags: , ,
Sign up for What's In Blue emails